Chapter Six—First Year: Buffy The Trainer
With a grin, Buffy corrected the form of First-Class Cadet Randolph 'Gator' Pierson. She acknowledged his quick “Thanks, Cali” with a thumbs up. Buffy hadn't expected to end up helping Captain Billings teach the Advanced Unarmed Combat Class of the Unarmed Combat Club. But here it was only two weeks into the term and that was exactly what she was doing. After only a couple of days, it had become obvious to everyone involved that Buffy was quite a bit more skilled than anyone else attending the Advanced Unarmed Combat Class, including the instructor. She had handled anything that anyone had thrown at her effortlessly. A little too effortlessly she suspected. But instead of becoming suspicious, the captain had pulled her aside on her third day with an offer. He had asked her to put her tremendous skills to use and help him teach the class. She had been tremendously flattered, but had raised one problem with him. Buffy could still remember how their conversation had gone.
“Sir, I would love to! But....”
Captain Billings had raised his eyebrows at that and asked, “What's the problem, Cadet Summers?”
“Well, umm, sir, I...” Buffy hadn't known exactly what to say.
“Go ahead and spit out, Cadet.”
“I'm only a Fourth-Class, sir. I don't think I can tell First-Class and Second-Class Cadets what to do.” Buffy had blurted out her answer.
The captain had hesitated, obviously thinking about what she'd said, before answering, “Cadet Summers, I know what class you are. So does everyone here. I wouldn't have asked for your help if I thought it was going to be a problem. Everyone is here in order to improve. You can help them improve. So no one here will mind you doing whatever is necessary to accomplish that. It's all about teamwork, Cadet. Each of them has tremendous skill and drive just as you do. Over the next few years, they will teach you a great deal in the areas of their expertise. Just as you can teach them a great deal about martial arts. That's what teamwork is all about. Complementariness. You can do this.”
Just like that, Buffy had become the captain's number two. And true to his word, she'd only run into one problem so far. Second-Class Cadet Roy Williams had been extremely argumentative when she'd tried to correct him over one of his kicks. Buffy had expected help from Captain Billings, but he had been elsewhere, working with another cadet. Somehow, she thought he was aware of the conversation happening between her and Williams, but he hadn't let on. So he obviously expected her to handle it. So Buffy did. She'd smiled sweetly at Williams, then asked him if he would use the move on her. From his hesitation, she had known that he was aware of the gap in their skill levels. But he had gone ahead and done it. Buffy had effortlessly blocked the kick. She had asked him to do it again. Again, she'd blocked the kick. Finally, she asked him to block her
kick. She'd taken it easy, but he still couldn't block it. His stubborn look had faded to a thoughtful one. When Buffy had asked him if he saw the difference, he'd indicated that he did. Buffy had then asked him to demonstrate the kick again. That time, he'd done it perfectly. Of course, Buffy had still blocked it, but had jokingly added that anyone with less skill would be nursing a seriously bruised chest, pleasing Roy immensely. After Roy, everyone else had been eager for pointers.
Now Buffy was thinking about asking Captain Billings if he would mind if she changed the pre-workout warm up and post-workout warm down to Tai Chi. Buffy had learned the art from Angel back in high school. He'd been incredibly good at it and had taught Buffy well. She had practiced it ever since. Tai Chi was tremendously effective in building fine motor control and body-awareness, something that every one of the cadets here needed.
“Sir, may I speak with you?” Buffy approached Captain Billings at the end of class.
“Certainly, Cadet Summers.” He led her to a table they used for team meetings. “Now what can I do for you?”
“I know I've just started with the helping, but I had an idea, sir.”
Tom was extremely pleased. He'd already seen the growth in Cadet Summers since she began helping him teach. She'd become more confident and self-possessed. Tom felt Cadet Summers was a natural leader. It showed in everything she did. Whether it was the patience with which she helped correct the near endless issues her fellow cadets possessed, or whether it was coming up with a new idea to help them. She just needed nurturing to develop that leadership further. Tom had been interested enough to try to access her high school transcripts, only to discover that Buffy was from Sunnydale, the town that had suffered that tremendous tragedy last Spring. Her records had been lost in the event. It had left him unable to evaluate how Cadet Summers had spent her high school years, but it had given him some insight into what she'd overcome. It had also left him even more determined to help her develop her potential. “Please tell me your idea.”
Buffy smiled and began to talk in an animated tone. “Well, I've been thinking about how to get the most bang for our buck from the class. We only get about two hours per day to practice. I know we can practice more in our spare time, but you know
that's not going to happen too often. So I was thinking that if we made the warm up and warm down more like a workout, we would totally be more efficient!”
Tom tried not to frown. While he was glad Cadet Summers had come to him with her idea, he wasn't too sure of the implementation. He foresaw injuries becoming a problem if that was all there was to her plan.
Buffy saw the look in the captain's eyes and continued quickly, “Oh, I'm sorry, ugh.. sir, I should have told you what I meant by working out. I mean use Tai Chi for the warm up and warm down. It's simple and is all about slow, controlled movements. You don't have to worry about injuries as long as you properly stretch, and Tai Chi even helps with that. Most important, it teaches tremendous body-awareness and fine motor control. It would really help everyone pull a Bruce Lee out there when competing.”
“I think it is an interesting idea. However, I have absolutely no experience or training in Tai Chi. All of my experience is with Taekwondo and Shotokan. I wouldn't be able to teach this. As a matter-of-fact, I would be just as much a student as anyone here. Do you have a solution, Cadet Summers?”
Buffy was flummoxed. She had planned to offer to teach all of the cadets Tai Chi, but teach Captain Billings? Suppressing a nervous giggle, Buffy finally got out, “I would be happy to teach everyone, sir. I have enough experience to do a good job.”
“Great, then why don't you take a few minutes before tomorrow's class, and come up with a quick training outline for me. Come in prepared to teach the class Tai Chi. I think we can devote one full class to learning enough to use it for our warm ups and cool downs. If it is as successful as you think, we may spread it to the beginner class as well.”
Buffy was terrified. She had to come up with a training outline? How did she do that? And by tomorrow? She hoped she wasn't wearing her patented deer-in-the-headlight look as she considered how to go about fulfilling the captain's orders. Suddenly aware that Captain Billings was still waiting patiently for her answer, Buffy gulped and said, “Yes, sir. I will have it by class tomorrow.”
“Don't worry. I know you'll do a great job with this project. Just as you've done a great job helping me train. Just put in the effort and you will succeed at anything you try. Now hurry up and get cleaned up or you'll miss dinner. I'm sure you're hungry.”
“Yes, sir!” Buffy hurried off to do just that. She wondered if she could ask Cadet Williams the proper format for an outline for training. Since he was a Second-Class, he'd probably done a million of these things. Now that would be complementariness, she thought. Not to mention Williams had the cutest tush Buffy had seen yet at the Academy...Three weeks later...
Buffy faced her opponent, aware of just how careful she was going to need to be in order to win this match without being outed as the Slayer. She handily won all of the matches she'd been placed in, easily beating women much larger than her, to the great delight of her teammates. As a team, they'd done just as well. The Air Force Team had been first overall, just ahead of the Marine Corps Team, with one match to go to determine the overall champion. Then during the match to determine the overall men's champion, the cadet representing the Marine Corps had struck Gator a blow that was a foul. Unfortunately, only Buffy with her faster-than-human reflexes had seen it. It had allowed the Marine Corps both the victory in the men's division, and the overall victory. As they were receiving the various trophies, Buffy had to listen to the boasting of Cadet Joe Wilson as he regaled everyone around them with tales of his prowess in beating the 'Chair Force.' Ultimately, Buffy had seen red and had made a snide remark that he might be the men's winner, but she could probably beat him. Unfortunately, her comment had occurred during a lull in the conversation going on around them and had been heard by everyone, including the myriad officers there from the various services. Buffy could still remember the furor she'd stirred up with her remark. The remark that led her to face Joe Wilson, the Marine Corps and men's overall services' unarmed combat champion, in a fight to determine the best fighter in all of the services...Thirty minutes earlier...
“What? YOU think you could beat ME? What a joke. I'm twice your size, blondie. You wouldn't stand a chance. Just cause you took down some girls doesn't make you a fighter. Why I ought to...”
“Cadet Wilson, I think you owe Cadet Summers an apology.” Buffy didn't recognize the tall, lean Air Force colonel who had interrupted the Marine Corps cadet's rant, but she was glad he had. Left to her own devices, she would have probably punched him if he had gone on much longer.
Joe gulped. It was one thing to chew out an Air Force smack, but a whole 'nother animal to say anything to Colonel Jack O'Neill, a near-legend in Special Ops. That the colonel was Air Force was irrelevant. His reputation for being in some serious black ops and coming through every time was known throughout the various services. Still, Colonel O'Neill or not, he wasn't going to back off what he'd said. Joe just needed to phrase it in a way that was more palatable. And he knew just what to say. “Sir, I do owe Cadet Summers an apology for the way I addressed her. Cadet Summers, I am truly sorry if I caused you any offense over what I said to you. I should not have used the term 'blondie' to address you. It was demeaning and disrespectful. Unfortunately, I have to stand by the spirit of my remarks. I would be able to defeat you in any kind of unarmed combat contest.” Joe silently congratulated himself over his cleverness. He had apologized and ground the plebe's nose in his superiority at the same time.
Buffy was furious. She was trying to hold onto her temper, but it was extremely difficult. Finally, she managed to get out something without foul language attached. “Really? Prove it.”
Joe was flummoxed. “Err, what?”
Buffy smiled up at him. “I said 'prove it.' Prove that you can beat me. Put up or shut up.”
A nearby Marine colonel intervened. He said,“Hold on, cadets. There is no need for this. We do not have matches between male and female cadets for a reason. There is simply too much of a weight difference, making such a match unfair.”
Buffy somehow kept from gritting her teeth. “Yes, sir. But I do not understand how Cadet Wilson can claim to be the overall champ when he hasn't beaten me. I know I can take him. So to me, I'm the overall champ.”
“She's got you there, Colonel.” Jack had been standing back watching the debate, amused by the chutzpah of the female Fourth-Class cadet. She had balls bigger than most of the guys he knew, which considering her size, was a pretty major achievement. Not that Jack thought for one second that she could beat the Marine Corps bruiser. He outweighed her more than two-to-one and had a ten-inch reach advantage. No, she would be no match for him, but it was fun to chime in on her behalf.
“Does she? Are you prepared to back up your remarks in the ring, Cadet?” The Marine colonel asked, looking over at Buffy.
Buffy quickly said, “Yes, sir!”
At the same time, Jack said, “No.” He turned to the Marine colonel and said, “You know it would be a slaughter if my cadet fought yours.” Jack ignored the offended 'Hey!' from 'his' cadet and continued, “Let's just stop this now and lower the testosterone level back to normal.”
“Yes, sir, just as soon as the Doo... err, Cadet Summers over there admits that I can beat her.” Joe was feeling stubborn. He'd been insulted by a Fourth-Class Air Force doolie and wasn't going to back off short of his own colonel telling him to do so. Which event did not appear to be going to happen, based on the mulish expression on Colonel McNamara's face.
“You couldn't beat me if my hands were tied behind my back!” Buffy shot back. She was aware of the displeased expression on Colonel O'Neill's face, but didn't care. She wasn't going to back down.
Colonel McNamara smiled. “Okay, then we'll be having one more match. We can get the Army ref for it so as to keep it impartial. Let's meet back here in fifteen.” With that, he took Joe's arm and steered him off to discuss the match.
Jack was aghast. The girl was crazy. She was going to get killed by that oversize jarhead. And he would be the one responsible for it. Turning to the girl, he rasped out, “That was the stupidest thing I think I have witnessed since joining the Air Force. Cadet, what were you thinking?”
Buffy stared up at the colonel's face. Her colonel. A colonel in the Air Force. 'Focus, Buffy,' she told herself silently. Breathing in deeply, then breathing out, Buffy squared her shoulders and began to respond. She didn't notice Captain Billings come up behind her. “Sir, I witnessed the Marine Corps cadet win the match against First-Class Cadet Pierson with a foul blow. It looked legal, but it was not. It struck far too low.”
Jack had felt that the blow had been a little low, but hadn't had that good an angle to see it, certainly not as good as the judges scoring the bouts. Impatiently, he gestured for the cadet to go on.
Buffy continued, “When I heard him boasting about being the best fighter, especially after the way he won, I could not keep silent.”
“Fer cryin' out loud! You're going to get killed by that bruiser. He's twice your size! Now I have to go figure out a way to diffuse this. And you're going to help me. You started this, and you're going to help finish it.”
Tom had heard enough. Obviously Cali had stepped into it and committed a faux pas, but it seemed she had extreme provocation. It wouldn't do to not allow her to stand by her decision. Now he just had to convince a colonel of that. “Excuse me, sir?”
Jack turned. It was Captain Billings, the coach of the Air Force Academy Unarmed Combat Club, addressing him. He quite impressed Jack as a coach. Jack had been amazed by the improvement in the team he'd seen from last year. For a little while, he'd actually held out some hope they would win it all. And he had been extremely impressed by Cadet Summers. She'd torn through the ranks of the female representatives of the various services like a hot knife through butter, despite giving up an average of thirty pounds per opponent. But that still didn't qualify her to get in the ring with a male fighter of Joe Wilson's size, skill, and experience. From the stubborn look on Captain Billings' face, he obviously didn't agree. While Jack didn't want to hear it, he finally acknowledged the captain. “Yes, Captain. What is it?”
“Captain Thomas Billings, sir.”
“Colonel Jack O'Neill.”
“Colonel, did I understand that Cadet Summers challenged the male division winner, Cadet Wilson, to a match to determine the best fighter?”
“That about sums it up. You want to help me get this ironed out?”
A huge grin spread across Tom's face. He couldn't help it. “No, Colonel, I do not. I want to go get Cadet Summers ready to kick the crap out of that Marine puke.”
Jack stared at the captain in astonishment. Okay, he thought, now he was dealing with two crazy people. Jack was just about to call the captain on it when he beat him to the punch.
Tom continued, “I know you probably think I'm crazy. But Cali... err, Cadet Summers
, is extremely skilled in martial arts. She's one of the best I have ever met, let alone coached. The truth is, she's
been teaching me and the rest of the team better technique since joining us back in August. You probably noticed how much improvement there's been since last year. Cadet Summers is responsible for that improvement. She is a credit to the Air Force. If she thinks she can take Cadet Wilson, then I have no reason to doubt her in the slightest. I respectfully request you do not interfere with this match, but instead let it continue to its conclusion.”
Jack was surprised at the confidence the captain had in his pupil. He turned and looked at Cadet Summers, who looked back with equal intensity, not the slightest bit intimidated by him. At least not too visibly, Jack thought in amusement, noticing a vein throbbing in the girl's throat. If she was that good... Jack came to a decision. “All right, Captain. I'm going to let this match proceed. Cadet Summers.”
“You are not to hot dog out there or to do anything that would put yourself in physical jeopardy. If you find yourself being beat up, I want you to yield. Do I make myself clear?” This last was barked out in what Jack referred to as his 'command voice.' He'd had a lot of practice with it over the years. He was glad to see from the look on Cadet Summers' face, he still had it.
“Yes, sir!! You are clear, sir!”
“Okay, then. Go give that jarhead hell.” With that Jack hurried off, eager to grab a good seat ringside for the match up. He figured he could get at least twenty-to-one odds if he bet on his cadet. Maybe even thirty-to-one. After all, she was both a shrimp and a girl...